As of 15 January 2024, tourists wanting to visit the famous Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul will have to pay an entry fee of €25. According to officials, the fee is meant to pay the maintenance, preservation and management of the historical site which receives millions of visitors every year. The visitor experience should be guaranteed, all while respecting the worshipping part of the monument, which was restored to its function as a mosque in 2020.
The history of the Hagia Sophia is a long and complicated one. Even though it was originally built as a church, in 1453 the building was transformed into a mosque. In 1935, the former religious institution was turned into a museum and remained so until 2020, when the Hagia Sophia once again became a functioning mosque.
Religious functions aside, the monument has been a famous tourist attraction and must-see for years. Millions of visitors go and see the aw-inspiring architectural gem and its rich history every year. However, all those tourists do ask for a lot of extra efforts and maintenance and even though the entrance had been free up until now.
The introduction of an entry fee is part of the recommendations by UNESCO to ‘streamline’ visitor numbers for a monument that has suffered from too many tourists over the years. Moreover, UNESCO suggested the addition of security cameras, fire detection and emergency communication systems.
Parallel to the introduction of the fee, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has made efforts to separate tourists and worshippers, meaning queues should be shorter and those wanting to pray in the mosque will be disturbed as less as possible.
As far as tourists go, they will have access to the Harim floor, Ottoman additions and Byzantine mosaics. To make sure the history of the building is reflected as well as possible, they will be accompanied by a 23-language audio guide accessible via QR code. Tickets are available at the ticket office situated on the gallery floor.